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Arnold v. Hutchinson

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 10, 2017

PARIS ARNOLD, Petitioner,
JEFF HUTCHINSON, Warden, Respondent.


          Gary Feinerman, Judge

         Paris Arnold, a state prisoner, petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. 14. On Arnold's motion shortly after counsel appeared on his behalf, the court stayed the case to allow him to obtain the contents of a newly discovered police file. Doc. 17. After receiving and reviewing the file, Arnold voluntarily dismissed two claims, and the stay was lifted. Doc. 19. The remaining claims assert that Arnold's attorneys were ineffective in several respects, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, and that key evidence at trial was the fruit of an arrest made without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Doc. 14 at 8-9. The habeas petition is denied, and a certificate of appealability will not issue.


         A federal habeas court presumes that the state courts' factual findings are correct unless they are rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Jean-Paul v. Douma, 809 F.3d 354, 360 (7th Cir. 2015) (“A state court's factual finding is unreasonable only if it ignores the clear and convincing weight of the evidence.”) (internal quotation marks omitted); Coleman v. Hardy, 690 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2012) (“We give great deference to state court factual findings. After AEDPA, we are required to presume a state court's account of the facts correct, and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The state trial court's 2011 dismissal of Arnold's post-conviction petitions was the state courts' final word on the merits of Arnold's ineffective assistance claims. Doc. 30-16 at 115-20. The Appellate Court of Illinois was the last state court to address the merits of Arnold's Fourth Amendment claim, People v. Arnold, 812 N.E.2d 696 ( Ill. App. 2004) (reproduced at Doc. 30-1), and also the last to have described the facts and procedural history of the case, ibid.; People v. Arnold, 2013 IL App (1st) 112039-U, 2013 WL 4106449 ( Ill. App. Aug. 13, 2013) (reproduced at Doc. 30-7). The following sets forth the facts as the state courts described them and as the transcripts reflect, as well as the procedural background of the state criminal and post-conviction proceedings.

         A. Factual Background

         On the evening of April 2, 2001, Karen Goodwin was found shot to death in a car in a parking lot at 1350 West 14th Street in Chicago. 812 N.E.2d at 698. Her murder remained unsolved months later when, on July 26, Detective James Sanchez arrested Tony Robinson in connection with an unrelated murder, and Robinson told Sanchez that he knew who killed Goodwin. Id. at 699; Doc. 30-17 at 81-84. Robinson was interviewed that day by Sanchez, and then several more times over the following days by other detectives, including Gregory Swiderek and William Sorengen. 812 N.E.2d at 698-700; Doc. 30-17 at 48, 81-82.

         Initially, Robinson identified three men as Goodwin's attackers: Gregory Brown (also known as “Ya-Ya”), Antoine Truitt (also known as “Twan”), and a person he knew only as “Boo” (later identified as Maurice Brown, Gregory's brother). 812 N.E.2d at 698-99; Doc. 30-17 at 48, 57, 83-84; Doc. 30-18 at 63-64. (The court will refer to Gregory Brown as “Brown” and Maurice Brown as “Boo.”) Robinson described the night Goodwin died as follows.

         Robinson was standing with Brown in the lobby of 1410 West 14th Street when they saw a blue Chevy drive by. 812 N.E.2d at 698. They recognized the car as belonging to Maurice Lebon (also known as “Reese”), who owed Brown money. Id. at 698-99; Doc. 30-17 at 37-38; Doc. 30-18 at 62. Brown suggested to Robinson that they “get” Lebon-that is, shoot him-but Robinson declined. 812 N.E.2d at 698-99. Robinson and Brown went upstairs, where they encountered Boo and Truitt. Id. at 699. Brown asked Boo and Truitt if they wanted to “whack” Lebon. Ibid. Brown, Boo, and Truitt then parted ways with Robinson, who went to another part of the building to use cocaine. Ibid.; Doc. 30-17 at 39. About ten minutes later, Robinson saw Brown, Boo, and Truitt back in the lobby. 812 N.E.2d at 699. All three wore dark clothing and carried guns. Ibid. Brown's gun was a chrome .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Ibid.

         Robinson went back upstairs. Ibid. Looking out through a window, he saw the three men head toward a parking lot just to the east, near some row houses. Ibid. The blue Chevy was in the parking lot. Ibid. Robinson watched Brown approach the parking lot from the south and Boo and Truitt approach it from the north. Ibid. Then Robinson heard gunshots. Ibid. Shortly thereafter, Brown came back and told Robinson, “I just whacked that n __.” Ibid. Brown added that he had put his gun in a garbage can by an incinerator. Ibid. Robinson later learned that it was Goodwin, not Lebon, who was killed inside the Chevy. Ibid.

         Robinson's account was consistent with several details that the police's own investigation had turned up: Robinson correctly described the car and the parking lot in which Goodwin's body was found; forensic analysis corroborated his assertion that there were three assailants, each with a gun, one of which was a .25; eyewitnesses who saw the attackers flee agreed that they wore dark clothing; and the .25 used in the shooting was, in fact, discovered in a nearby trash can. Doc. 30-17 at 43-46. But the detectives were skeptical that Robinson was telling the whole truth, in part because Truitt was dead (having been shot to death weeks after Goodwin's murder) by the time Robinson spoke to Sanchez, and in part because Sanchez waffled over the shooters' identities after expressing fear that his family would be harmed if he identified them. 812 N.E.2d at 699 & n.2; Doc. 30-17 at 49-50, 52-54, 82.

         Robinson adhered to versions of this account through several additional interviews between July 26 and 29, but he continued to tell detectives that he feared gang retaliation and was not being “entirely truthful.” 812 N.E.2d at 699-700. Then, in a July 30 interview with Swiderek and Sorengen, Robinson changed a crucial detail: he said that Arnold, not Truitt, was the third shooter. Id. at 699; Doc. 30-17 at 41. Robinson was initially reluctant to name Arnold, he explained, “because he knew [Arnold] was a ‘general' in the New Breed Street gang.” 812 N.E.2d at 699; see also Doc. 30-17 at 41. Robinson maintained that the rest of his account was truthful. 812 N.E.2d at 699; Doc. 30-17 at 42.

         This new version was more convincing to the detectives. After Robinson implicated Arnold, police showed Robinson a photographic lineup, from which he identified Brown, Boo, and Arnold as the shooters. 812 N.E.2d at 699. Based on this identification and without first obtaining a warrant, the police arrested Arnold at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon. Ibid.

         Arnold was taken to the police station and held there for several hours. Doc. 30-17 at 33. Sanchez was the first officer to interview him, at approximately 8:00 p.m. that evening. Id. at 106. The interview was not transcribed, and only Sanchez and Arnold were present, though it is undisputed that Sanchez read Arnold his Miranda rights. Id. at 106-07, 110; Doc. 30-18 at 66-67. According to Sanchez, that first interview lasted about twenty minutes, during which time Arnold orally confessed to participating in the Goodwin shooting along with Brown and a third individual, Cornelius Robinson (also known as “Pig”). Doc. 30-17 at 107; Doc 30-18 at 52. (To avoid confusion with Tony Robinson, the court will refer to Cornelius Robinson as “Pig.”) Later that evening, around 10:00 p.m., assistant state's attorney Mari Rose McManus joined the interview, and Arnold repeated his oral confession to her and Sanchez. Doc. 30-17 at 108-09; Doc. 30-18 at 141. The next afternoon, July 31, two other detectives, George Vasilopoulos and John Pelligrini, re-read Arnold his Miranda rights, and again Arnold orally confessed. Doc. 30-17 at 115-16. Finally, at 11:30 p.m. on July 31, McManus and Pelligrini re-Mirandized and re-interviewed Arnold, who again confessed; this time, McManus and Pelligrini recorded Arnold's confession in a handwritten statement, which he signed. Id. at 122-25.

         Arnold's written confession was similar to Robinson's account. In it, Arnold described meeting Brown, who was looking for Lebon because Lebon owed him money. Doc. 30-18 at 155. Arnold described Lebon's blue Chevy passing, and said Brown stated that he was “going to kill this n__ .” Id. at 156. Arnold said there were three shooters-himself, Brown, and Pig- each with his own gun. Id. at 155-57. Arnold said that he approached the parked car from one direction with Pig, with both firing shots at the car, while Brown approached from another direction, firing directly into the passenger seat. Id. at 157-58. Arnold, Brown, and Pig then went to a nearby playground, where Brown stashed his gun-“a smaller caliber gun, a 22 or a 25”-in a garbage can. Id. at 158. Arnold and Brown then returned to 1410 West 14th Street. Id. at 159. The written statement acknowledges that Arnold heard and waived his Miranda rights, was treated well in custody, and gave the statement voluntarily. Id. at 154, 159-60.

         B. Pretrial Proceedings

         Before trial, Arnold moved to suppress his confessions as the product of an unlawful arrest without probable cause. Doc. 30-14 at 56-57. At the hearing, the prosecution relied on Robinson's statement implicating Arnold in the Goodwin shooting as one basis for probable cause, and also relied on the statement of another arrestee, Marcus Hunter, who said he saw Arnold shoot Truitt (whom Robinson had initially identified as one of the three attackers) three weeks after Goodwin's murder. Doc. 30-17 at 94-97. The prosecution introduced Robinson's statements through Detective Swiderek, who described his interviews with Robinson on July 27 (when Robinson implicated Truitt in Goodwin's murder) and on July 30 (when he implicated Arnold). Id. at 36-43. The prosecution argued that details of Robinson's statements were corroborated by the detectives' own investigation, giving rise to probable cause. Id. at 93-96.

         Arnold's counsel, Gina Piemonte, attacked Robinson's credibility, noting that he was in custody on suspicion of a different murder; that he changed his story about Goodwin's murder several times, most notably on the crucial detail of whether Truitt or Arnold was involved; and that he might himself have been involved in that murder. Id. at 97-99. Piemonte also argued that Hunter, too, was not a credible enough informant for his accusation to supply probable cause. Id. at 99-101. The judge denied the motion to suppress, finding “ample, overwhelming” probable cause to believe that Arnold was involved in Goodwin's murder. Id. at 101-02. The judge also concluded that police independently “may have had probable cause” to believe Arnold shot Truitt, even though they did not arrest Arnold right away after interviewing Hunter. Id. at 102.

         In the alternative, Arnold moved to suppress his confessions on the ground that they had been coerced with threats of violence. Doc. 30-14 at 58-60. The detectives denied his allegations. Doc. 30-17 at 107-08, 117, 124. Because the interviews were not recorded, it was Arnold's word against the detectives', and the judge, finding that Arnold's testimony was not credible and that the confessions were voluntary, denied the motion. Id. at 135.

         Just before trial, Arnold moved in limine to bar any evidence of his prior bad acts or alleged gang affiliations. Doc. 30-14 at 68-69. The motion argued that mentioning Robinson's assertion that Arnold was a high-ranking gang member “would be highly prejudicial” and that Arnold's alleged gang membership had “no probative value to the case.” Id. at 68. The judge granted the motion. Doc. 30-18 at 5.

         C. Trial and Sentencing

         Arnold opted for a bench trial. Id. at 4. The judge who presided, Colleen McSweeney-Moore, was the same judge who conducted the suppression hearings and ruled on the ...

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